If you’ve already read the editorial you’ll know ESM attended Thruxton for the BTCC at the start of the month. Now, here’s our BTCC Correspondent’s full round-up. Forgive him for the delay; he’s had a first-born child to christen.
Jordan On Form As Plato Falters
The latest rounds of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship brought more joy to current champion, Andrew Jordan, with a 1st, 2nd and 4th, but his main challenger going into the weekend, Jason Plato, certainly faltered with a 6th, 7th and a DNF. This meant that at the end of the weekend the pair were separated by 35 points after starting as joint leaders. The weekend provided plenty of high speed action, seen more clearly from the television set than at the circuit itself I have found out, and some notable incidents at the high speed Church corner in particular.
Saturday qualifying saw Jordan put his Pirtek Honda in top spot, which was followed by the Yuasa Honda of Matt Neal, who incredibly hadn’t had a front row start for a year and a half since Croft in 2012. The top 3 was completed by another Honda, of Gordon Shedden, with Mat Jackson, Tom Ingram and Plato completing the top 6. There was an unusually poor qualifying for 2009 champion, Colin Turkington, as he finished 13th.
Race One saw the top 4 get away cleanly from the line, with Rob Collard using his rear wheel drive advantage to climb from 8th to 5th off the start. The opening lap saw the impressive Jackson overtake both Neal and Shedden before he challenged Jordan for the lead coming into the complex. However, despite being a car length ahead, Jordan out-braked Jackson to retain the lead. Race One was seriously low on action, hence the need to mention that Warren Scott and James Cole had an off coming into the complex on lap 3.
By lap 7, Jackson’s early momentum had steadied out and he was busy defending from Neal, which only lasted another lap until both Yuasa Racing Hondas found a way past thanks to a good bit of teamwork. The following lap saw Turkington make more progress after his poor qualifying with a fine move around the outside of Adam Morgan for 8th before arriving at Church corner. The only other note from the race worthy to mention, was that in the last couple of laps Collard needed to make his BMW as wide as possible to defend from Plato, something he just managed. Overall, a poor race won by Jordan from Neal, Shedden, Jackson, Collard and Plato.
Luckily Race Two provided a little more entertainment, but again, it was hardly a classic. Jordan and Neal were both cleanly away from the line and another fine Collard start helped him climb up the order. Collard was soon to be 2nd as Shedden out-braked himself trying to jump Jordan.
Lap 2 saw confirmation that Alain Menu had received a drive-through penalty for being out of position on the grid, a shame considering he finished the first race 7th and was running well again. Following his trip through the pits, Menu returned to the track down the grid before finishing a lowly 18th.
Shedden looked to have the bit between his teeth for this race and he made amends for losing his 2nd to Collard on the first lap by out-braking him coming into the complex on lap 3. Lap 6 saw a good battle emerging between Jack Goff, Sam Tordoff, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nick Foster for around 10th place. Similarly, a couple of laps later there was a good battle between Jackson, Neal and Turkington for 4th as they went side by side for a couple of corners before Neal eventually emerged victorious.
Lap 11 saw a change of leader as Jordan had a massive slide at Church, which allowed Shedden to capitalise on his lack of momentum and go around the outside of him. However, this was not the last of the major action. As the leaders started their final lap, the race was red flagged due to a big smash for Nick Foster at Church corner. Rob Austin, who was later disqualified despite an appeal, was trying a move up the inside of Foster before contact occurred which sent Foster flying towards the barriers backwards. Worse was to follow for Foster, as his BMW then hopped over the tyres on impact. Luckily, Foster was ok and was able to compete in the final race as his car was also repaired in time. With 75% of the race completed, it was declared finished so Shedden won from Jordan, Collard, Neal, Jackson and Turkington.
Race Three, as is so often the case, was definitely the race of the day with more incidents than races one and two combined. Giovanardi chose himself for pole in the reverse grid draw and gave himself a shot of his best result since returning to the BTCC. Goff lined up next to Giovanardi with Morgan 3rd, Plato 4th, Turkington 5th and Jackson in 6th. The start saw Giovanardi away cleanly, but all eyes were on Turkington as he shot across the track and around the outside of Goff and Morgan to take 2nd. Things were to get better for the Ulsterman as he completed his great start by overtaking Giovanardi before Church.
The first lap also saw an end to Plato’s day as he was an innocent victim in a collision that broke his rear suspension. Morgan was tagged from behind by Collard, which sent him into a spin, and as he corrected it he went into the side of Plato’s back wheels. Plato managed to limp around the lap before retiring in the pits.
Lap 2 brought more close racing for Goff as he attacked Giovanardi for 2nd, but defended 3rd from Collard at the same time. However, the following lap would see Collard relinquish 4th to Jackson who was then to pull a questionable move on Goff a couple of laps later. The safety car was called for on lap 5 as Ollie Jackson went head on into the barriers in what looked like another nasty accident from the resultant damage, at Church. Mat Jackson however, appeared to pass Goff under yellow flags, but retained his position and claimed afterwards he’d seen a green flag. Ollie Jackson escaped with being winded, which was a relief to many.
The safety car eventually came in and we were racing again on lap 9 with a great re-start from Turkington.
Lap 11 saw a long train of cars following Collard, but the main incident on this lap was yet another massive smash at Church corner, this time for Simon Belcher and his Toyota Avensis. Belcher went straight on at the corner, smacked the tyres, which sent them flying everywhere, before he rolled out of sight and into the woods. Like Ollie Jackson and Foster before him, it was again a relief to see him out of the car relatively unscathed, a testament more to the strength of the cars than the barriers Thruxton had provided. Belcher’s onboard footage, available here, shows just how violent the impact was.
Turkington once again led the pack as we were back racing on lap 14. However, 2nd-placed Giovanardi was struggling to keep up with his pace and came under serious pressure from his teammate Jackson. Giovanardi held his 2nd until lap 17 when Jackson finally made the pressure tell. Before that, Collard had been tagged from behind by Shedden in a strong move, but Collard retained position by using the escape road.
The last couple of laps saw many drivers rolling the dice for the last time as Goff was overtaken by Jordan and then Shedden at Church. Collard, maybe feeling aggrieved from his earlier Honda contact, smashed Neal sideways as they both lost out having to take to the grass – Neal eventually finished 23rd and Collard 10th.
The final lap saw Giovanardi under immense pressure from Jordan for the final podium position, but the Italian just held on to secure his best finish of the season. Turkington, in the end, was the comfortable victor with his 2nd win of the season, from Jackson, Giovanardi, Jordan, Shedden and Goff.
The final race had certainly provided plenty of incidents to keep me talking to the ESM editor on the long drive home and I’m sure thousands others! The major talking point from the weekend was clearly the 3 crashes at Church corner. I accept that the cars have developed and are faster, as shown by the fact they were about 2 seconds a lap quicker this season that last, but that shouldn’t be a scapegoat for the poor excuse of so called ‘barriers’ at Church. They are simply not good enough and we are lucky that no-one was seriously injured from the weekend’s action. As ESM’s editor rightly points out in his article about the whole experience of the circuit, Thruxton is clearly in dire need of investment. I would suggest that their first investment should be new barriers at Church. Thruxton’s management soon released a statement after the incidents saying there is no need for knee-jerk reactions and they would analyse the crashes. I’m sorry but this doesn’t wash for me, do Thruxton want someone to be seriously injured or worse before something is done about it? Get new barriers installed quickly!
As for the racing, being honest, it wasn’t really the best of weekends. Without the 3 crashes, we would have little to talk about, despite the close running at high speed. It was clearly an awful weekend for the MG pair of Plato and Tordoff as their cars were never in with a good chance of serious points. The opposite can be said about Airwaves Racing. Finally, after a season and a bit we are starting to see the best from this team as the carried on their form from Donington. Mat Jackson looks like a new driver, maybe the pressure from Giovanardi’s arrival has helped him? Finally, as expected it was a great weekend for Honda, who always go well at Thruxton. 5 out of the 6 podium positions in the first 2 races were filled by Hondas and they weren’t far off in the reverse grid race too. All in all, Jordan will be a very happy man after the opening part of the season, as he leads the championship by 8 points from Shedden.
Championship Standings after Round 9 of 30
|1. Andrew Jordan||141 points|
|2. Gordon Shedden||133|
|3. Colin Turkington||123|
|4. Matt Neal||110|
|5. Jason Plato||106|
|6. Rob Collard||88|
Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season.
|1. Alain Menu||52 places gained|
|2. Rob Austin||40|
|3. Rob Collard||39|
Team Round Up
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
A great weekend for Jordan with a 1st, 2nd and 4th. Depper is still to score a point this season. Not proving to be as good as Jeff Smith.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
Another good weekend for the team with ominously strong results.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Three words: Had a stinker.
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
16th, 13th, 15th. Never looked like challenging the top 10.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
On a track that isn’t the BMW’s favourite, they didn’t do too badly at all. Great job done by the team to get Nick Foster out for the last race.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Jackson had another strong weekend. Will Giovanardi’s podium inspire confidence? Let’s hope so.
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Finished all 3 races again.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
A mixed weekend for Menu and Smith.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
A horrible weekend for Scott – 3 retirements.
RCIB Insurance Racing – Vauxhall Insignia
I was impressed with Goff this weekend. 11th, 9th and 5th was definitely a good weekend for him.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Retirement, 23rd, CRASH. It’s going to be an expensive process repairing the Avensis for Belcher.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Bad weekend for the Proton duo again. They’re also left with a big bill for Ollie Jackson’s car.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
Still no points for Moffat, but three more finishes.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Newsham was fairly quiet all weekend, only picking up 2 points in the final race.
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
2 points for Geddie, but a terrible weekend otherwise.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
2 retirements and a 21st wasn’t how Chris Stockton will have planned his weekend.
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
9th and 2 8ths represent a good weekend for Morgan.
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
3 more finishes, but no points to show for it.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Things are not going well for the Audi and Hunter Abbott.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Austin had another nightmare weekend in reality with a 17th, disqualification and a 12th. Come on Rob, we know you can do better!
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
No Robb Holland as his car was unable to be repaired from Donington.
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
3 points finishes in the high teens. Ingram’s doing well so far.
Next up: Oulton Park 8th June
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